9 Common Workplace Near Misses And How To Avoid Them

Workplace near misses is essential to track. Improving safety in your workplace is a primary goal of any health and safety department. If your company has experienced the operational and financial burden of lost time accidents, you know that you’d like to avoid them financially. Aside from this financial burden is, of course, the trauma that the injured individual must endure, which is our primary concern here.

So, how do we mitigate these injuries, incidents, and accidents? By documenting both incidents, such as injuries and near misses, and understanding the correlations between the two.

Understanding the relative nature of near-miss incidents and accidents can help us manage our businesses better. It allows us to prepare better and adjust our facilities and processes to eliminate the hazards that are creating the incidents in the first place.

Understanding Common Workplace Near Misses And Workplace Injuries

Let’s take a look at the correlation between near-miss incidents and workplace injuries. There will be variations based on what industry you work in, but generally, the information should reveal some interesting results.

Top Workplace Incidents Resulting In Injury

Top Workplace Incidents Resulting In Injury explained at 1stReporting.com.

According to the National Safety Council, the three most common injuries in the workplace are:

  1. Overexertion and bodily reaction
  2. Slips, trips, and falls
  3. Contact with objects and equipment

The issue with each of these and prevention are as follows:

  1. Overexertion and bodily reaction are work injuries that are difficult to prevent but not difficult to predict. Unfortunately, near-miss incidents do not typically include almost pulls or almost strains. The nature of these sorts of injuries is that they often do not get noticed or reported until an injury occurs.
  2. Slips, trips, and falls are usually preventable. Sure, there’s always going to be that one time that someone tripped on a shoelace or other unavoidable unknowns. Still, for the most part, these injury incidents are avoidable and preventable. However, again we find a situation where many or most near misses involving slips, trips, and falls go unreported. 
  3. Contact with objects and equipment is a form of workplace injury where the near-miss incident tends to cross over. The near-miss situations involving vehicles, equipment, and objects are often substantially more severe than a slip or trip, despite the potential severity of a fall where one hits one’s head. Given the higher rate of perceived danger involving equipment, vehicles, and objects, near misses involving these workplace items tend to be recorded more often.

Next, look at the top near-miss incidents reported and find further insights.

Top Workplace Near Miss Incidents

A person stands on a wheeled desk chair - an accident waiting to happen. Avoid accidents by using 1st Reporting for your safety inspections.

You would probably be shocked to see how many near-miss incidents go unrecorded. Take the image above; we’ve all done it at some point or witnessed someone standing on a chair with wheels. Classic office incident maneuver, but it’s an accident waiting to happen and a near miss. However, how many times do you think companies file a close call (near-miss) report? Even if it is only internally? Likely they often don’t, but it depends on the company policies.

The top near-miss incidents are difficult to determine due to reporting practices and the likelihood that people will instinctively feel embarrassed to admit they had a close call – which hampers us from getting a reliable number about which near misses occur the most.

Typically in most industries, there are a set number of near-miss situations that occur in the office (like our chair climbing friend above), out in the field, in the plant, or whatever other facility your industry works with.

Each industry will have its unique set of near-miss and close-call situations that must be dealt with on a case-by-case and industry-by-industry basis.

Here are some very common workplace near-miss scenarios, their respective industry, and some significant preventive measures to avoid them. We’ll see with each that many do correspond to the top three workplace injuries. Since most workplace accidents are avoidable, let’s run through these scenarios to see if the right solutions are in place at your workplace.

9 Common Workplace Near Misses And How To Avoid Them

  1. Slips And Trips – Office, Warehouse, Facility – All Industries.

This near-miss scenario is likely the most common and one of the least commonly reported. Take the example of the office worker climbing onto a wheeled desk chair to reach something. It’s a common and unsafe practice best avoided but happens more than we would all care to admit. And most of the time, we turn a blind eye unless someone falls.

Most businesses have strict policies about climbing on office furniture and using it beyond its intended use. However, there’s always one in the group. Our solution: Ensure you have robust health and safety policy and stress the importance of at-work safety and safe practices. You may even require having to go as far as instituting a policy that includes disciplinary action for staff who willfully disregard the company’s safety practices. 

Having a regular facility inspection or a floor inspection to minimize things like tripping hazards are other intelligent ways of mitigating this type of hazard.

  1. Moving Vehicle Near Miss – All Industries Utilizing Moving Equipment Or Vehicles.

A commonly reported near-miss scenario is the altercation between a pedestrian and a moving piece of equipment or vehicle. This scenario might include a pedestrian and a forklift, a truck, or even a robot. A near-miss incident report should be completed and submitted when a person is almost struck by moving equipment or machinery.

How do we avoid these sorts of near-miss incidents? After all, they can lead to severe or even fatal consequences, so mitigation of the thread is imperative.

Many businesses develop innovative flooring plans and layouts that inhibit and remove as many intersections between vehicles/equipment and pedestrians as possible. Many facilities will utilize physical barriers to maintain safety between pedestrians and moving vehicles or equipment. The utilization of barriers is often essential and even a legal requirement in many industries, job sites, and facilities.

Our solution: do an intelligent layout plan of your facility and include physical barriers and even traffic signals to keep pedestrians safe. Create a robust training program to warn all drivers of pedestrians and warn all pedestrians of moving equipment. Many facilities institute policies including no smartphones or cell phone use while traveling to eliminate the risk of pedestrians carelessly wandering into traffic and attention on their devices.

  1. Horseplay And Dangerous Behavior – All Industries

Horseplay happens whenever you get a staff member a little too comfortable in their job. Sometimes people make foolish choices. To prevent this, a robust health and safety policy with disciplinary measures for those who disobey is the go-to solution for most businesses. However, what about dangerous behavior?

Sometimes the behavior of employees risks the health and safety of others or themselves. It is especially true when the situation arises where you are reasonably suspicious a team member may be intoxicated at work or any other number of possible scenarios. When this occurs, we think of it as dangerous behavior. The tricky thing about dangerous behavior is that it sometimes happens without a person’s intention. 

We can often prevent the dangerous behaviors of staff through the use of proper training. The previous example is training to impede actions like jumping off a dock plate or climbing on an office chair. Ensuring you are using an excellent near-miss incident report and that your staff is well trained in its use will help you identify and mitigate dangerous behavior-based occurrences.

  1. Falls From Heights – Construction And Other Industries
A worker falls from a ladder in this image. Using 1st Reporting can help to avoid such mishaps.

A fall can happen from only a small distance off the ground. Let’s use our office chair climber example again; a fall could occur from as little as a foot or two off the ground. However, the incidents could easily prove deadly for industries like construction, roofing, overhead door installation, and others that work many hours at height.

Preventing workplace falls is essential to your workers’ safety, as you know. And the best way to do this is with a robust training program and an efficient incident reporting system. Using a digital reporting system like that offered by 1st Incident Reporting is our obvious first choice to aid your company in reporting near misses and other work audits and reports.

  1. Narrow Escapes – Construction, Manufacturing, Utilities, Service Industries

One of the most frightening accidents is when a person is pinned or even crushed by equipment. A typical scenario is any industry or business that has the use of large vehicles. The steel industry and construction come to mind, but everything from train yards to logistics with the extensive haul truckers backing in and out of loading bays has the potential for a narrow escape.

The best way to prevent narrow escape near-miss scenarios is, again, with proper training. However, this time we include proper procedures as well.

For example, utilizing a vehicle backing procedure that encompasses the best safety practices is one way that a business can help prevent those narrow escapes involving vehicles and people.

If you’re having issues getting your staff to comply with the particulars of a backing or other procedure, try digitizing the process with a procedural checklist. Using a procedural checklist in your operations is one way to add value and ongoing training to your staff’s daily activities. It also ensures that staff is compliant with all process steps. Add using this sort of procedure with a digital reporting system like 1st Reporting. You can even get notified when your staff has completed the procedural checklist via the platform’s convenient custom notifications.

  1. Equipment Operation Near Misses – All Industries Operating Equipment

Near misses happen a lot more often than equipment operators will admit. Ask the forklift operator in confidence how many times they have almost hit something, and it wouldn’t be surprising to find out it happens nearly every shift. Companies that press their equipment operators for results or reward operators for expediting loading quickly, find their equipment accidents are more severe than those practicing a safety-first oriented, production-second mentality.

The solution is always to maintain a safety-first, results-second culture. Many companies face a big issue: convincing their employees to report near misses that the team member may have technically been in the wrong. It’s like asking someone to turn themselves in. Most people will avoid admitting fault; it’s merely human nature.

However, when you maintain a culture of safety first and use an efficient reporting system like 1st Reporting, where staff can complete an incident form like a near-miss incident from the privacy of their smartphone or other Android, iOS, or even laptop or desktop computer or device. When staff does not have to face a manager’s wrath over a near-miss incident, they will feel more inclined to report these potential incidents.

  1. Hazard Communication Failure – Most Industries, Including Construction, Manufacturing, Service

A typical scenario that generates a near-miss incident is the failure of hazard communication. This scenario might include a lack of signage, a mislabeled object like an electrical panel, or even a lockout using the incorrect lock and tag. In the service industries, it could mean a forgotten work overhead sign or a misplaced pylon. It might be a lack of a warning placard about heavy machinery or cranes in use in construction.

When communication of hazards fails, all sorts of incidents could occur. Even something as simple as a mislabelled cleaning agent in a staff washroom could wreak havoc if used for the wrong purpose.

Many businesses that utilize long-term staff are in danger of their staff becoming accustomed to the hazards in the workplace, and they might forget to acknowledge the use of placards and signage to warn their fellow employees. Given a new staff member’s potential ignorance, it’s easy to understand how an accident might occur at a job site when hazard communication fails.

The remedy for hazard communication failure is, perhaps, a procedural checklist, so staff must acknowledge safety steps in the procedures they might be taking for granted. Again, using a digital platform like the 1st Reporting Solutions to customize procedural checklists to your specific needs is a wise idea that could save your company a lot of grief and aggravation.

  1. Equipment Maintenance – Any Industry Using Equipment

We spoke of equipment operation and vehicles, but maintenance failures still cause near-miss scenarios.

Equipment failures that happen without notice and could have been prevented by a proper maintenance program are where near-miss incidents could prove fatal.

Take the example of air transport. If a maintenance program on a plane engine or flight control component is improperly completed and a worn part is not noticed, the results could be catastrophic.

A scenario like this happened on August 21, 1995, when eight people were killed when a plane crashed. The plane, flying out of Atlanta, had a propellor blade break off 20 minutes into the flight, causing the crash. Maintenance had not adequately inspected the blade for damage. A most horrific equipment maintenance failure resulted in the loss of 8 and over 20 others injured. (Source: FAA)

To avoid these scenarios, whether a plane, a forklift, or any other commonly used equipment, having a daily vehicle inspection completed is the intelligent and safe practice your company should never avoid.

  1. Falling Objects – Service Industries, Construction, Maintenance Departments

A primary and often overlooked source of serious near-miss incidents is the issue of falling objects. Any industry that lifts things has a potential near-miss situation close at hand. Often, the scenarios where incidents occur with falling objects are those where workers’ temporary situations at heights occur. These include construction sites, service technicians, maintenance departments, and of course, the shipping and storage equipment operations like those utilizing cherry pickers and other lift equipment for storing products on racking at heights.

Often, objects that are stored improperly or secure loads that are improperly secured or hoisted are commonly to blame. 

Again, the solution to these scenarios is a robust training policy coupled with an intelligent reporting platform that makes it easy for staff to embrace a safety-oriented workplace culture.

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